President Manuel creates photography group

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Ninety-five million photos are posted on Instagram every day, according to Some of those people are professional photographers, some are amateurs and others post just for fun. One of these people posting for a variety of reasons is University of Indianapolis President Robert Manuel. As he has always had an interest in photography, Manuel decided to start an online photography group after receiving a new lens for Christmas. Manuel, having a very demanding day job, has always liked taking pictures on the side and said he wanted a place to share them.

“Over time, I have taken my own photographs just from the places I’ve gone,” Manuel said. “What I tried to do was figure out how people who are really busy doing other things and who aren’t professional photographers, can get together to provide support for their work and offer critique as they go along.”

The group is called “The 12-month challenge,” which runs on Flickr, and has a specific word for every month of the year. Depending on what that word is, photographers have to interpret their idea and perspective of the theme. Once members post their pictures, other members can offer comments and critiques. The photographer can  edit the photo, then post again by the end of the month as their final submission. At the end of each month, they vote on their favorite photo and the winner receives a prize, according to Manuel. The words for January were “warm and fuzzy” and the words for February are “desolate or desolation.”

The group is open to anyone, whether they attend UIndy or not, all they need to do is request to join. Manuel said there are people from his high school and college, UIndy faculty/staff, students and alumni, and four professional photographers who Manuel has met along the way.  Some of the members are even from around the world such as Hawaii, Colorado, Washington, Boston and Ireland.

Senior biology major Ashley Clevenger said she first heard about the photography group through Manuel’s tweet. Because she is currently enrolled in a photography course, she thought the group would be interesting to be a part of. Clevenger said she has always taken pictures on her phone prior to this year, but has never been good at angles and wants to learn more.

“I’ve always been interested in photography and art in general and it [the group] sounded really cool to me,” Clevenger said. “Prior to the group, I’ve always taken pictures on my phone, so I have been learning more angles as well as more perspective.”

Always having a very “one-track mind,” Clevenger said she knows the way she takes pictures, the way she thinks of themes and how she interprets different ideas. She thinks the most interesting part is how different people interpret the same word, and everybody takes the theme in a different way. Clevenger also said that sometimes she will not realize something because of an emotional connection to it, which someone else will critique.

“I’m excited for the upcoming themes to see how everyone goes about it. If we’re all going to do the exact same thing or if each person has a different idea, Clevenger said. It just makes me realize how good other people’s ideas are on things, then it opens up my ideas on that for another shoot. ”

Manuel said that the group does not have a purpose other than sharing and creating art that the members think are beautiful and being able to discuss their art. Manuel said he thinks this group will give people a great opportunity to connect with people they would have never connected with before.

“People are so tied into doing the thing that matters,” Manuel said. “I’m tied up doing president work and students are tied up doing school work, but I really feel like we just need time to come together around things we’re passionate about. This is a way, using technology to bring together people who want to explore photography and have a community to bounce ideas off of.”

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